Buckle up, this is gonna be a long one...
I was driving home from work the other day listening to FM radio. I used to listen to my iPod on the way home from work, but when I moved in with my beautiful girlfriend my iPod became our wePod (patent pending), so now I listen to the radio. FM radio at 5 o’clock is pretty bleak as radio stations make an all too obvious money grab with a never ending stream of commercials on 85% of the stations. So I was leaning heavily on the “Seek” button when I came across Don McLean’s American Pie, my least favorite song of all time. I raced past this song to settle on the end of Sweet Child O’ Mine on Boston’s classic rock station (is anyone else shocked that Guns N’ Roses is now considered classic rock? Where did the time go?). The song led directly into some idiot talking so it was back to the “Seek” button. A full pass through a bunch of commercials led me back to the still playing American Pie. Good lord this song doesn’t end. Just past this song was the end of Alive by Pearl Jam, which I belted out in my best Eddie Vedder/Scott Stapp/Scott Weiland voice. Then more commercials and back to “Seek”. As I came around the dial for the third time, there it was again, American fuckin Pie.
I nearly drove my car off the road. How is this song still playing? Did some zombie bite the song and the only way we can make it stop is to cut off its head? Who is “Miss American Pie”? Is McLean such an idiot that he is going to kill himself because a few rock legends died? Do other people hate this song as much as I do? If they don’t, why not? Is this the worst song of all time?
I decided to ruminate (somebody went to college) on the topic for a bit and ask some of my friends for help. The Queen B of the Sexy Boston Sports Empire, Sadie Sloe Gin, threw out All Summer Long by Kid Rock; a great pick, but as a semi-cover I don’t know if it qualifies. Her brother, the nameless/faceless guitarist of Sadie Sloe Gin and the Fizz, suggested I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred; another good one, but I don’t think they take themselves seriously enough to be the worst. My co-worker Emily fought valiantly for Cam’Ron’s Get ‘Em Girl; though its lyrics may be among the worst ever, it’s too generic a rap song to be in the running. Sexy Boston Sports Underground Music Editor Joe Black put his name behind Sweet Caroline because of the pink hats screaming “Oh Oh Oh” at Fenway, but I think this song used to be pretty good.
Good choices all, but not exactly what I was looking for to claim the (shit) throne as “Worst Song Ever”. This song needs to have a handful of qualities that make it worse than any other song. The first is that it should be popular. I’m sure the 6th track off Tony Basil’s (she sang Mickey) debut album is worse than any song we talk about here, but nobody knows that song so its awfulness doesn’t resonate. The song needs to have terrible lyrics and a bad melody, but needs to be catchy enough that it sticks in your head like a prison shank. It doesn’t hurt if the singers are total douches and they absolutely have to take themselves and, more importantly, their song too seriously. Finally, when you meet people who like this song you should feel so overwhelmed by confusion, disrespect, hate and bewilderment that you have to be physically restrained from hitting them. It was clear to me that I was thinking of one song in particular: I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas. Let’s do a Dr. Jack/Bill Simmons style break down to figure out if I Gotta Feeling or American Pie is the “Worst Song Ever”.
Cracked.com did an awesome video breaking down why I Gotta Feeling is so terrible and focused heavily on the lyrics. The key takeaways: you can’t rhyme a word with itself; Fergie is not Jewish and should leave the Hebrew to Barbara Streisand; listing the days of the week is one step away from singing the ABC’s; how many times do you need to sing the hook before you start the song? Sum it all up, and this song is lyrically one of the worst of all time.
American Pie has some doozies of its own. He rhymes a word with itself in the second verse (“step”). He quotes a nursery rhyme, which isn’t much better than listing days of the week. He lists pop culture reference after pop culture reference like some two bit amateur sports blogger. Worst of all, he takes himself and the subject of the song so damn seriously. Of all the things you could want to kill yourself over, you are gonna choose the death of Riche Valens to send you over the edge? But really, nothing compares to “L’Chaim”. Loser: I Gotta Feeling
Length of Song
I Gotta Feeling lasts almost 5 full minutes. That is 5 minutes too long for such a horrible song. What makes this length worse, though, is the fact that BEP start singing the chorus 30 seconds into the song and don’t stop until a full minute later. It’ll make you say, “geez, this has been going on for like an hour!”
As I said before, American Pie is the song that just won’t die. It has 6 verses and 7 choruses. This piece of junk lasts for 8 and a half minutes. A rule for every song should be that if the average male can’t make love longer than your song lasts, it is far too long. This song goes on for 3 solid sessions. Loser: American Pie
I use the term “artist” very loosely here. BEP used to be a solid hip hop group that nobody knew. Then they added Fergie and things went to hell. The band became more concerned with having their songs played at weddings and NBA halftime shows than with writing interesting lyrics with good beats. Will.I.Am apparently swallowed Johnny Five whole and now has a robot voice. Fergie sees fit to scream all her lyrics like a bleating pig. I would be shocked to find out that they put more time into writing one of their songs than they put into trying to make Fergie look like a woman.
American Pie is considered a great song by many because of its lyrics, which I find stupid and pretentious all at once. This may make McLean seem like an artist, but I tend to disagree. He follows a fairly simple rhyme scheme throughout the song with a lot of senseless imagery that tricks people into thinking he wrote a good song. Plus, reading the Wikipedia page dedicated to this song reveals a fraud and a douche. “When asked what ‘American Pie’ meant, McLean replied, ‘It means I never have to work again.’” You are a real credit to your craft Mr. McLean. Both are huge sellouts, but…Loser: I Gotta Feeling
Whether we like it or not, image is a big part of music. BEP features a tranny, a black robot, some other guy and Chris Bosh’s alien half brother. They like to wear battery powered clothing and plastic helmets. On the other hand, they are all pretty awesome dancers and Fergie is the Land O Lakes of butter faces (that’s the top butter brand, right?), so they are doing a couple things right.
Don McLean looks like your high school social studies teacher that thinks he is way cooler than he really is. I know music is supposed to be about, you know, the music, but count me among the superficial pricks who wasn’t entirely unhappy when video killed the radio star. McLean is undoubtedly a radio star and watching him strum his guitar with his shaggy hair and 5’7” frame leaves me feeling like I’m watching the third runner up at a Knights of Columbus talent show rather than a real rock star. Loser: American Pie
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when you imitate crap you are sincerely an a-hole. I Gotta Feeling only came out in 2009 so it has yet to find a home in the land of covers. The CGI Chipmunks and Chippettes did a version of this in their squeaquel, but my guess is a bunch of accelerated recorded voices don’t sound much different than Robot.I.Am and Squealie.
There really is no contest in this competition though. In 2000, Madonna released an abbreviated pop dance cover of American Pie on the soundtrack of her movie The Next Best Thing, a rom com starring her and Rupert Everett. Read that last sentence again. Not only was the song terrible, but this British skank made a video where she dressed like a Halloween cow girl and flashed her ass crack at the stars and stripes. And even though I hate the song, how insulting is it to have a British girl covering this piece of Americana? That’s like having some Irish pop band play a tribute concert on America’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl, to honor the victims of 9/11. Wait, what? She’s not British? And U2 did exactly that concert? Oh. Still a horrible horrible cover. Loser: American Pie
Appearances in Our Culture
I Gotta Feeling is literally everywhere. As annoying as they are, the BEP was smart enough to come out with a song that could be used on all occasions. Sporting events. Weddings. Heading to the club. Graduation. Award shows. Watching The Bachelorette with your three sister wives. Its omnipresence is only exceeded by its sucktitude and I fear we may never escape its clutches.
American Pie should actually almost receive a bonus point for one of its appearances in pop culture. In The Office episode “Chair Model” Michael falls in love with a model in a catalog and wants to date her. Dwight tracks the girl down only to find out she was killed in a car crash. The episode ends with Michael and Dwight visiting the girl’s grave, and as they stand solemnly over it, Michael breaks into song. “Bye, bye miss chair model lady, I dreamt that we were married and you treated me nice…” Cut to the next scene and Michael and Dwight are rocking out hard singing the rest of American Pie (and stumbling through the endless words). A great part about this is that the scene starts in full daylight, but by the time they realize they don’t know the words and just cut to the finish (“This’ll be the day that I dieeee”), it is pitch black, thus capturing the mind numbing length of the song. Looking past the fact that I hate the song, this was one of the best moments in the history of that show. Loser: I Gotta Feeling
Both these songs are offensive to all of us in the ear region, but each song also picks on a very large, very vocal cross section of our society. The BEP very blatantly offend the Jewish people in their song. The group shouts both “Mazel tov” and “L’Chaim” in the middle of the song. They use Mazel tov after saying “Fill up my cup”, which seems to me like they are using it to say thank you, when it is actually a congratulatory term. Then later, after saying “Mazel tov” improperly again, they say “L’Chaim” (to life), which is I guess appropriate, but come on. “Fergie” stands for Ferguson, her real last name, which means she’s probably an Irish Catholic. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess Will.I.Am and Apple De App are not Jewish. And Chris Bosh’s alien half brother is most likely one of the beings that have been living on our planet for centuries that L. Ron Hubbard wrote about, so he’s probably a scientologist.
American Pie manages to offend a much larger and more diverse group: any musician who released anything after February 3rd, 1959. The famous line from this song is, “the day the music died”. This is a reference to the day when a plane crashed carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, which led to their deaths. Holly was a great rock and roll pioneer and produced some great songs, but to say his death was also the death of music? That would be like saying baseball died when Babe Ruth died; it doesn’t make any sense. I’m guessing the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Phil Collins and Sadie Sloe Gin have something to say about this. Still, the Jewish people have been persecuted for millennia, they don’t deserve to have this auto tune abomination defecating on their language. Loser: I Gotta Feeling
Alright, this has gone on longer than American Pie. It’s time to tally up the categories and see which will be crowned as the “Worst Song Ever”.
I Gotta Feeling: Worst lyrics, Least artistic, Most inescapable in our lives, Most offensive
American Pie: Longest song, Worst image, Spawned the worst cover sogn
Wow! Even with my own biases in play, I Gotta Feeling takes the crown, 4-3! As much as I hate American Pie I really can’t argue with the results. There is literally not one redeeming aspect to I Gotta Feeling. The fact that so many people get amped up when the song plays absolutely blows my mind. It carries none of the goofiness of bad one hit wonders that make them endearing. It’s blatantly offensive. It could have been written by the manatees that write Family Guy episodes. It’s sung by a robot and a howling pig. After this in depth look, I have no doubt in my mind that I Gotta Feeling is truly the worst song ever. The day of its release was the actual day the music died.